By Katy Cable,A 4 minute read

There are few things more fun than taking my Pug Olive to the dog park. She just loves racing around like a Greyhound and socializing with other dogs. In Olive's case, she was so badly abused and fearful when I rescued her, taking her to the dog park has strengthened our bond and healed her anxiety issues.

As a former organizer for several Meet-Up Groups  in So Cal, I continue to attend several events every month. Plus I live one block from a very popular dog beach. While it's always fun to meet new friends and watch our fur babies play, disasters can occur. Unfortunately, sometimes when you visit a public dog park, there's that ONE DOG with a delusional owner who ruins everyone’s time. I'm sure you've seen it. The owner is typically lost in their own world, obliviously chatting away on their cellphone while their dog is stealing toys, humping any leg they can find, knocking over anything in their path and pooping with reckless abandon. In order to best prepare yourself AND your dog, the following "Do’'s and Don’ts" are a must-read before heading out with your furry friend
Dog Park Etiquette and Safety Tips:

Before You Go:

  1. Check first and avoid any dog beaches or parks that have closed recently due to unsanitary conditions. If it looks dangerous or unclean, go elsewhere. Be on the lookout for fallen tree branches, trash, and people failing to clean-up after their dogs. The beach can be littered with trash, debris and unhealthful water after severe storms, so I recommend checking with the health department and having a look around at the conditions before a visit.
  2. Before you actually enter the dog park, take a few minutes to observe how the dogs already there are behaving. If they are mostly milling around, fetching balls, or playfully chasing each other, it's probably a safe environment for your dog. If play looks aggressive and it's crowded with highly energetic dogs, try again another time.
  3. Don't forget to bring your (fully-charged) cell phone. You will probably want to shoot some pics and videos and maybe exchange IG’s with a new friend, but you also want to have your phone in the event of an emergency. Make sure you know where the nearest emergency vet is located and that you have the numbers for the police and animal control handy should an injury take place. It's unfortunate but I have never visited a dog park without witnessing a scuffle of some type. Always be prepared!
  4. If you have a new dog or are dog-sitting,hold off on the dog park. If you insist on going, do wait until you've seen their temperament around a few dogs in the neighborhood or dogs belonging to friends or family. Be certain they have good interactions with other dogs before venturing out to the dog park. Make sure they follow basic commands (even with distractions) and always check with their owner first.
  5. If your pet is anxious, aggressive or fearful of other dogs, or if you have little or no control over them, DO NOT TAKE THEM TO THE DOG PARK! A dog park is NOT a good setting to train your dog. As a matter of fact it can be downright dangerous!
  6. As a responsible dog owner, please realize the dog park isn't a good idea for everyone. Wait until your dog is better trained, older, or more socialized before you make a visit.
  7. Leave the dog treats and favorite toys at home. Dogs can smell treats left in old jeans or pockets that have been through ten wash cycles. Often they get overly excited or even aggressive around food and toys. Not all dogs should be eating certain things and you don't want to provoke any food fights or unnecessary trouble. Dogs by nature aren't skilled in the art of SHARING.

When You Arrive:

  1. If this is your dog's first visit to the parkor if it's a different place than they're used to, let them greet the other dogs gradually -- I like to do a lap "on-leash" around the park or perimeter before I enter the fenced area. This is a good opportunity for me to scope out the conditions and temperament of the other dogs.
  2. Don't enter the fenced area or gate if there's a gaggle of dogs crowding around the entrance waiting to play with your dog. This will be too tense a situation. Hold off until the crowd thins out.
  3. Keep an eye on your dog's behavior. If they seem scared, or other dogs are playing too aggressively, take your dog out and go for a walk instead. Try another time when it's a better mix of dogs. Again, the dog park isn't for everyone. It just takes that one bad dog to ruin everyone's experience.
  4. I stay clear of dog parks that don't offer separate play areas for small and large dogs. Big dogs can pounce or play too roughly around little ones and it's more likely injuries can occur. If the dog park you frequent doesn't have a separate area for small dogs, maybe avoid it if there's too many large playful dogs in attendance.
  5. You Must Supervise Your Dog At All Times! The dog park is just like taking a toddler to the playground for the first time. This is not the place to relax on a bench with a good book or your nose in your social media feed while your dog is on the loose.
  6. Pick up after your dog. Don't assume there will be a poop bag dispenser (with bags still available) and have a few on-hand, should others need one. I keep baby wipes and antibacterial lotion with me as well. Please don't be one of those annoying people who pretends they don't see their dog squatting. Be sure to dispose excrement as well. Nothing kills the buzz of a fun time at the park faster than trekking a shoe full of doggie doo-doo home with you.
  7. It's important to know when your dog is anxious, frightened, tense, stressed, sick, playful, and aggressive. Sometimes rowdy-rough play can look similar to aggressive or threatening behavior. Know your dog. Know their moods. Be ready to break up the party if necessary before a problem arises.
  8. Be ready to leave the park if your dog or another starts getting overly excited or aggressive. Don't make the assumption your "mellow" dog --who's never hurt a flea, wouldn’t break character and nip or attack another dog (or human) in a certain situation. It happens all the time. The #1 thing vets hear after an accident is, "But they've never done this before!" Remember you can't predict behavior 100% of the time.
  9. Know some basics for breaking up a dog fight. An empty water bottle filled with coins, a whistle, a spray bottle of water or a big stick might come in handy to stop a fight from escalating.
  10. In order for the dog park to be a good experience, your dog should enjoy interacting with others in a friendly way.

If you have a new dog that's come from a shelter or rescue, I recommend some basic obedience training and some smaller "meet-and-greet" activities before hitting the dog park.

Fearful dogs often act aggressively and a new unfamiliar dog might make life miserable for everyone at the dog park. Again, the dog park isn't the best place for every single dog. A timid or traumatized pet is often better off having play dates with one or two familiar, friendly dogs. Dogs can come along way after some successful meet-ups and play dates and you can always give it a go at a later date when your dog is more socialized.

Don't put others at risk. The safety of other dogs and people is just as important as your own safety and the safety of your pet. Be respectful! This is a great time for you to interact and play with your dog and others. Don't turn a blind eye on your dog and if they are misbehaving, stop it. My little Olive will hit any food treat she can get her mouth around and if she doesn't mind my command to "leave it" or if she's taking another dog's toys after their owner throws it, it's time for me to take Little Miss Olive HOME!

Now that summer is almost here, I hope you’ll get out and have some fun with your pets at the dog park. If you're in the So-Cal area, check my site’s EVENTS page for a variety of fun activities to attend. If you haven’t signed up and would like to receive my free weekly blogs, just click the button below. Hope to see you soon! Pugs and kisses! -Katy😘🐾